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Durham divided on nonprofit grants

County commissioners Chairman Fred Foster wants the city’s advice on nonprofit funding, but his fellow Commissioner Michael Page wants the city to rethink its policies.

Grants to nonprofit agencies came up during a meeting of commissioners and City Council members last week, when Foster asked Mayor Bill Bell how the city ended its “non-city agencies” grant program

“We put a plan in place over a four-year period, told those in the queue we would be ending funding after a certain time and no new applications would be taken,” Mayor Bill Bell said.

The city program ended after the 2011-12 fiscal year. Durham County still makes cash grants to various organizations that apply for its Nonprofit Agency Funding Program. For the current fiscal year, the county gave out $794,849 to 41 agencies.

“It can be a burden without a benefit,” said Councilman Eugene Brown. The grants constituted about .25 percent of the city budget, but took as much council time in budget meetings as the Police Department, he said, and some organizations were doing no fund-raising on their own.

“I agree with you,” Page said, but then said, “I really do hope at some point you rethink this process.

“There are some nonprofits that are really providing services … that work very hard to serve citizens, particularly citizens no one else serves,” Page said.

Durham does give money to some “very targeted nonprofit initiatives,” particularly in low-income housing, City Manager Tom Bonfield said. Some city departments have partner arrangements that support nonprofits through departmental budgets or by in-kind donations.

“We realize we have limited resources,” said Bell. “There are instances where we’ve had people come in who had no experience working with the city … and ask for city money.”

Page said the county got “an enormous number of applications” for arts and recreation programs, areas the city formerly funded as non-city agencies.

“You were carrying some of this weight,” he said.

“People can always ask,” said Bell.

Free gift cards to first 100 shoppers at Belk stores

Early-bird shoppers at Belk have a chance at snagging a free gift card on Saturday while helping a worthy cause.

At 6 a.m., the retailer will be handing out 100 gift cards to the first 100 shoppers at each of its stores as part of Belk's Fall Charity Sale.

Nationally honored NC nonprofit under investigation by SBI

The State Bureau of Investigation's Financial Crimes Unit has opened an investigation into Connectinc, a nationally honored nonprofit in Battleboro that links the jobless with support services to help them get back on their feet.

The unit is also investigating Connectinc.'s president, Jackie Savage, said Jennifer Canada, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Justice.

The investigation began Feb. 24 and is ongoing.

Savage did not return a call seeking comment on Tuesday.

Kevin Zimmer, Connectinc's interim executive director, declined to comment.

David Bruton, the chairman of the nonprofit's board, said he has been instructed not to comment on the investigation until it is complete.

Connectinc. has about 50 employees. The organization receives money from a number of sources, including contracts with the state, the Golden Leaf Foundation and the J.B. Reynolds Foundation.

Contemporary Art Museum set to begin construction in Raleigh

The backers of a long-delayed Contemporary Art Museum expect to begin construction early next year in downtown Raleigh's warehouse district.

The 20,000 square-foot facility will include three galleries and classrooms in a renovated warehouse at 409 W. Martin St.

The nonprofit group behind the museum bought the old warehouse in 1997 but ran into problems with fundraising and other obstacles.

The Contemporary Art Foundation, in an e-mail this afternoon, wrote that construction will start in the first quarter and the museum will open in 2011. The museum will generate $2 million or more from historic tax credit programs to help pay for renovations.

"Although faced with a difficult economy, CAM has been able to 'swim against the tide' in the current recession and secure the final capital funds needed to start construction," the group wrote.

The project could bring life to the warehouse district, where development has been slow to materialize. It also joins other major projects underway or planned in downtown Raleigh, including the $100 million Green Square Project, a 12-story office tower being built by the State Employees Credit Union and a $210 million Wake County Justice Center.

Recreational sports organizations need holiday help, too

As you shop for holiday gifts and Toys for Tots contributions or
consider tax-deductible end-of-year donations, don't forget that many
Triangle recreational sports organizations also could use a little help
in tight times.

Your small contribution has great value.
Recreational sports programs help kids learn teamwork and other skills
they will use in the future, and we all know that physical activity
contributes to good health.

The Salvation Army Community Center
is among organizaitons to consider. And don't forget your area YMCAs,
Boys & Girls Clubs and sports-focused nonprofits. Schools, too.

Enable America expands in Raleigh

A Florida-based nonprofit that helps disabled people find work is expanding its presence in Raleigh.

Enable America opened a Raleigh office earlier year but is planning a big kickoff event in October that will be followed by an increase in programming and training opportunities for disabled people in this area.

The organization has already partnered with several local companies, including Progress Energy, The Royal Bank of Canada, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Rex HealthCare, WakeMed, SAS Institute and the Carolina Hurricanes. Enable America will match mentors from local companies with people with disabilities or wounded veterans.

Enable America will hold a community celebration of Disability Mentoring Day at the downtown Marriott on Oct. 21. The group was founded by Richard Salem (pictured above), a Tampa lawyer who lost his eyesight when he was a teenager and was the first blind person to graduate from Duke Law School.

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